Friday, February 18, 2011

It means "which is in danger of speedy disappearance"

"A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank...but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child." -Forest Witchcraft

"When I ask college students who attended Chicago public schools what they remember most about their elementary and high school days, the details of their answers vary. But one of the first things out of their mouths, almost without fail, is, 'Well, there was this one teacher...'" -Gregory Mitchie

I really like the word ephemeral. Maybe because it reminds me of Le Petit Prince--where the title of this post came from--The Little Prince learns from the geographer that most people would not be interested in his beloved flower. No, the flower is ephemeral--in danger of speedy disappearance. Adults concern themselves with things that are much more permanent. Things like mountains and such. I love The Little Prince, and may quote him again later--I think there's a lot of wisdom in that book, beyond the commonly quoted: 

"Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."
(Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with with heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.)

For now though, I want to talk about the ephemeral nature of teaching, or more so, the ephemeral nature of AmeriCorps positions. 

One reason that Teach for America is not really a solution to the achievement gap, but rather should be a placeholder for real change, is that, while it may be a great growing experience for the teachers, it's not necessarily the best for the children. Not only are the first years notoriously bad, but for teachers to be a part of a students life--much less community--for only two years is doing a disservice to a student for whom school is the most stable part of their lives. At least with a regular teacher, while they may only be a direct part of a student's life for one year, are a presence for however long that student is at the school--and possible after.

My job is similar--it's really just a year long position. But given that I've totally fallen in love with my students--not to mention the school and staff--it's hard to just put in a year and say see ya! So I'm applying for the Reading Corps for next year so I can stay with my school. (Even AmeriCorps is ephemeral--each program undergoes review every three years--if the program isn't working, it loses it's grant money. The program I'm in won't exist in quite the same way next year--so my specific position won't exist.) I'm excited to see how my students react in the next grade. It almost seems wasteful to have created these relationships and then just immediately leave. Especially given that the school is moving locations, it would be helpful to retain as many familiar faces. As I've learned with my kindergardeners, young kids often have trouble breaking from routine--any time there's a substitute, the class becomes WAY more chaotic than it already is. 

In related news, I've decided to not have a favorite student again. I mean, what? I don't have favorite students. Well, I certainly don't act like I do, but it's really only human. However, my two favorite students no longer go to the school I work in. The first, N, moved, and one day I saw him, and then he just never came back. And not like I really know what the story is anyway--no one really ever lets me know if a student no longer attends the school, it just sort of comes up every now and then. The second student, E, switched schools right after the announcement came that the school would close. (Well, it's not closing anymore, but I guess the damage is done.) I don't know why N and E were my favorites. Both of them had some behavior issues--weren't always the best listeners and sometimes didn't have good impulse control if they got angry. But they also for some reason took a liking to me, which helped. N sometimes seemed as if he wouldn't give me the time of day, but then he would randomly give me a hug, and one time asked if I would be here next year, to which I had to say I didn't know, but was touched that he wanted me there. And he'd been there since I believe pre-K, so it came as a surprise for me when one week, he was gone. And made me sad--I don't know if he'll even remember me at this point. Same with E--whenever I'd go into his class he'd want me to come stand by him or help him. And then he wouldn't always do his work or listen well to my direction. But he was so cute and was pretty sensitive for the tough front he put up. And one day, he was gone. 

It's hard--I doubt I'll ever see N or E ever again. Which makes me sad. And I wonder, what will become of them--will they end up in a supportive school? Will they make it to graduation--much less go to college? Will their behavior keep them from succeeding? They were both smart if they actually put some effort into it--especially N. There is so much outside of a teacher's control. And it really bums me out that I only had one--maybe two years with them and even that short amount of time was cut short. So I guess what you have to do is make the most of whatever short amount of time you've got with a student. --you never know when your chance will run out. I had huge soft spots for N and E. Which was maybe unprofessional of me, but what can I say? It's hard enough when you know to say goodbye. But I had no closure--and they were just thrown somewhere new in the middle of the school year--their lives were probably more upset than mine was. And while I hope they remember me, I know they likely won't, and it's probably for the best--it'll make it easier for them to adapt to a new environment. 

So this post is dedicated to E and N--and the other students who've passed through my life far too quickly. And to the hopes that they find success where they don't become a statistic about students of color or low economic status but rather complete their education and find success...

 "On risque de pleurer un peu si l'on s'est laissé apprivoiser" (You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed")  -Antoine de St. Exupéry

1 comment:

  1. I have similar issues about how short our time is in the schools. One or even two year is just not enough time to make any real difference or even just be good at your job. I get so frustrated feeling like I am failing my students. No matter how hard I try, it will be just that a first try, an experiment. And sometimes it works well, but I have so few tools in my box and I won't be here next year.

    That's cool that you are going to do a second year at your school! Congrats